By Lloyd Jones
CONWAY — Quarterback Will Pollard is taking his talents to the University of New Hampshire this fall.
Pollard, who set a host of records at Kennett High School in his four years under center, accepted an offer from the Wildcats in March. He might be the ideal choice for UNH, as the Cats like to have a throwing and running quarterback.
"I can't wait," Pollard, 18, of Intervale, said.
As an Eagle, Will was a four-year starter. He passed for 3,996 yards, 46 touchdowns and a 60 percent completion rate.
Pollard also rushed for 2,158 yards, 25 touchdowns and averaged over 10 yards per carry for his career.
Pollard, who was named all conference three years in a row, helped Kennett to a combined 26-13 record, including going 17-3 in his final two seasons.
"I was lucky to have had such great receivers and linemen," the son of Kristin Honsberger and Thom Pollard, said. "My teammates mean the world to me."
Will Pollard is going to spend his first year in the UNH program as a red-shirt, meaning he can practice with the team but won't play in any games this year, thus maintaining all four years of his collegiate eligibility.
Pollard heard from several of colleges interested in recruiting him. He had offers to play at Division II and III schools, but wanted to play at the highest level he could, accepting UNH's offer to play at the Football Championship Subdvision (formerly 1AA ) football level.
"Early on I was looking at Central Connecticut State University and Wagner (in upstate N.Y.), a bunch of FCS (Football Championship Subdvision) schools," Pollard said. "It's tough to get recruited in New Hampshire as a quarterback. My film is better than a lot of the quarterbacks schools are looking at but they see the competition as better in other states. A lot of schools will take the kid that might not have as good a film, but is playing in Florida (against stiffer competition) over me."
Pollard said he narrowed his list down to UNH, Wagner, Assumption and Merrimack College.
"UNH kind of pulled the trigger on me late because I didn't get my film to them that early," he said. "After the season I got a call from the recruiting coordinator (Kyle McAllister) and I was so surprised. He said they wanted to see my film so I sent it and then he came up here and everything went well. Then he and the head coach (Sean McDonnell) came up and met with me and Coach (Vaughn) Beckwith, and they said they wanted to get me down for my official visit (to the campus).
"This was in January and I stayed a Friday and Saturday night down there with another recruit," Pollard continued. "We did a bunch of stuff during the day, like checking out the facilities and talking with members of the team."
At the end of his visit, Pollard committed to the Wildcats.
"I'm called a preferred walk-on because I came to them so late in the process," Pollard explained. "What happens is, if I get top three on the depth chart at all at any point, I get a full scholarship. I think next year or honestly even by the end of this year, I think I can do that."
In this day and age, having footage of an athlete is a critical part of the recruitment process.
"There's this thing called Hudle, where schools can just look you up on that," Pollard said. "It's a good way to get recruited. It's what all of the college coaches look at.
"(Laughing) It's kind of crazy in that you've got to promote the heck out of yourself. My dad and I spent a lot of money last summer going to 10 one-day camps. They put you through a ton of drills, a lot of throwing routes and running your 40-yard dash. It's like a mini combine, pretty much."
Pollard's Hudle page has had more than 2,000 views. You can see his highlights at http://www.hudl.com/athlete/2231111/will-pollard
Pollard is 6-foot-1, weighs 192 pounds, and can run the 40-yard dash in under 4.8 seconds.
"My 40 time is not bad for a quarterback going into college, considering I've had no real training on that," he said. "Once (UNH) gets me there, they'll be able to get that time down even lower."
UNH moves into its new Wildcat Stadium this fall — which includes lights for night games and additional stadium seating — something that had Will excited.
"It's going to be great to be part of the growth of the program," he said. "I'm coming in right at the right time with the new stadium and they're probably going to have a new locker room and weight room within the next year or two. They're upping the ante so they can competed with recruits."
UNH historically red-shirts freshmen, something Pollard likes.
"I think that's good," he said. "It just give me a year to prepare, adjust to game speed and get a little bit better and bigger. I need to learn the playbook."
Pollard, who has been accepted into the business program at UNH, has been told by the coaching staff they want him as quarterback.
"They've got a senior this year, but after this year it's pretty wide open," he said. "I'll really be able to compete after next year. With Coach McDonnell you have to know the playbook. I think I'll be able to pick it up pretty quick.
"When Coach (Mike) Holderman was here (Pollard's freshman and sophomore years) he installed some pretty advanced stuff. I don't think I'll have a problem with that. I already do some of the stuff that they do there. The UNH offense was my No. 1 choice where I wanted to play. That was my goal playing FCS level, but I knew that was the place for me because they run a spread offense like we do and they have a quarterback who gets to run and pass the ball — that's me pretty much, that's what I do."
When it comes to passing or running, Pollard said he prefers to throw the football.
"A lot of my runs are off read-option and kind of just escaping the rush," he said. "I had a couple of really long runs this year from the pocket breaking down and just escaping. They weren't necessarily designed runs. Running is fun but I like to sit in the pocket and kind of pick apart the defense, it's fun."
Pollard is also not one to stray away from contact when he's on the run.
"At this level I'm bigger than most of the linebackers and defensive backs," he said with a big grin. "I love letting people know you're there."
Will said his favorite run in high school probably came his junior year at home against Plymouth in 2014 in an 18-6 victory.
With the game scoreless with 31 seconds left in the half the Eagles got the ball on their own 38. he connected on back-to-back passes to (Nick) Graziano for 12 and 22 yards to get to the Plymouth 28. Pollard was sacked for a loss of 4 yards and leaving just 10 seconds on the clock. On the next play, a pass to the end zone went incomplete, leaving just 3.3 seconds left — time for one play — but what a play, it will be forever known as "The Run" in the Kennett and Plymouth rivalry.
Pollard dropped back, looked deep for his receivers, was forced to scramble out of the pocket, saw an opening, darted to his right and then sprinted up the sidelines untouched for the game's first points with no time left of the clock sending his teammates and KHS supporters into instant euphoria.
"Will is just a great athlete," said Beckwith. "He made something out of nothing and that's just him adjusting and knowing the situation."
Pollard also had a long run for a score against Kearsarge, outrunning a pack of Cougars 62 yards for a score.
"They blitzed and we didn't have enough blockers so I knew I had to escape," he said. "It's the first play on my highlight reel. There's a guy coming from my blindside and I kind of like jab-stepped in and reversed out and he kind of fell over and I kind of carved my way across the field."
"Probably the pass at home to Drew (McDonald, who will play at Western New England College this fall) this year against Kearsarge in the playoff game in the back of the end zone, that was my favorite pass," Pollard said. "It put us up 12-6, and that was the final score."
What makes Pollard's ascent up the football ladder all the more impressive is he's only played four years of school football. From Bartlett, Josiah Bartlett Elementary School does not have a middle school program.
"There was a Bartlett flag football league," Pollard said. "In middle school we had all these kids who wanted to play football, and my dad was like, we've got to do something about this. My dad and Andy Pepin started a Pop Warner team, so I played that for my seventh and eighth grade years. I wouldn't be here without that — it was really big for me. I owe them a lot of thanks for that."
Pollard has developed a love of the game.
"Going from fifth and sixth grade I wasn't quite sure if I liked basketball more or not," he said. "I was probably better at basketball back then. Sophomore year I just really stated about playing football in college. Freshman year I almost went to a prep school. Sophomore year, Coach Holderman really helped me out. He developed me into a quarterback. We started talking about colleges he wanted me to go to. He brought me out to California for some QB training camps. He is like a second dad to me."
Pollard has made several trips out west to The Range (in Livermore, Calif.), which is regarded as one of the premier quarterback camps in the country.
"I worked with Will Hewlett (he's trained more than 60 Division 1 quarterbacks), who trains all of the D1 prospects that are in California. He trains a few NFL backups and a few guys from the Canadian Football League. The dude is crazy — he's good. I went out before my senior season with my dad and I had five one-on-one sessions with him. He just transformed my form and everything.
"What I feel when you're playing quarterback is if your form is good, that's the key, you've got to have good form. I've been lifting a lot lately and trying to bulk up and people have been asking me are you still going to be able to throw the football. It's all about form. The consistency, the form, the footwork. When I was out there he just made my form so much better. I got the ball out so much quicker. He taught me to throw with more velocity and use my body a lot better — that's all stuff that they look for at the next level."
Pollard plans to head back to The Range in July and may take his younger brother, Sam, who will be a sophomore at Kennett this fall, and also wants to be a quarterback.
"He's not bad," Will said with pride in his voice. "It's just his first year playing QB, but with throwing the football with me all these years he's picked up on a lot of stuff. Now he's gained like 30 pounds and goes to the gym with me all the time. He can throw the ball with pretty good velocity."
Pollard could set record for the Wildcats on his first day of practice when the team heads into the weight room.
"My bench right now is 330 pounds," he said. "the bench record at UNH for a quarterback is 330. I think I'll be able to break that when I get there. My squat is 450 pounds, and the record is 480 pounds. Lifting is like a passion of mine."
Pollard is leaving Kennett with just one regret.
"My only regret is that we didn't win the state championship two years in a row," he said. "I think we had the talent to do it, but we just couldn't quite put it together. I always put in the work when no one was looking. I want to be the best football player I can be."
Wearing a UNH hoodie, Pollard said he'll always be an Eagle, but he's excited to be a Wildcat, too.
"I'm super pumped," he said, smiling. "Everyone there is so committed and just so nice at the same time. I want something where I can be committed year round. I want to be around guys that have the same passion as me."